By Chaya Spencer
Vicissitude. I had to look this word up! It's a good word for right now. "A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant." There is such drastic change of circumstance happening at the moment; changes that are external to us and not in our control. And, changes that are internal to us that maybe within our control. David Whyte writes:
Conscious or unconscious, we are surrounded not only by the vicissitudes of a difficult world but even more by those of our own making.
One way to think about gaining some control over those of our own making is the map which the philosophical yogic concept of the five Koshas offers. According to this map, we are composed of five layers, sheaths, or bodies. Like Russian dolls, each metaphorical "body" is contained within the next:
Annamaya kosha—the physical body or food body
Pranamaya kosha—the breath or life force body
Manomaya kosha—the mental and emotional body
Vijanamaya kosha—the wisdom body
Anandamaya kosha—the bliss body
Each of these sheaths is impacted by the vicissitudes of our current situation in different ways. Our physical bodies might be feeling stress, exhaustion, fight or flight, and so on. Our energy Pranic body might be feeling short of breath and lacking in vitality. Our mental bodies might be feeling fear, despair, hope, and so on. We can take heart from understanding that we are not just one of these sheaths that we might be indentifying with at a given time. We are all of them. They are all part of us. And, we are more, for these are all sheaths that cover the essence of the Self, the Atman, the heart of our essential nature.
When we are able to perceive ourselves as more than a single part, and know that we are an unchanging essence that lives at the center of all five, we can craft an identity for ourselves that can enable us to live in the world we find ourselves in without feeling beset. Rather, we can understand the parts and through them, understand the whole.
Follow your yoga and meditation practice into the heart and essence of your identity and find an inner steadiness at the center. You are all of it and all of it is you.